TAMPA, Fla. (March 4, 2017) -- Persistence was key for the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday night, as it took until the 88th minute for the Rowdies to take a lead on the University of Tampa Spartans in a preseason tune-up at Pepin Stadium.
But the Rowdies kept the pressure on and didn't give up, eventually earning their second win in as many weeks thanks to trialist forward Martin Paterson's strike in the 89th minute, which helped the Rowdies to a 1-0 win.
“We played in some difficult conditions tonight,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “It’s windy and the pitch is bobbly, but the guys just kept going. We had loads and loads of possession but didn’t quite capitalize on it until the end.”
There are now three weeks and just two matches left before Tampa Bay opens the 2017 United Soccer League regular season.
Paterson's goal, which took a slight deflection before beating the Spartans goalkeeper, was assisted by Alex Morrell.
“UT sat very, very deep and let us have the ball," Campbell said. "I spoke to the team at halftime to tell them we’re going to come up against this at times during the season when opponents just sit off and let us have the ball but make it hard for us to break them down, so we have to keep moving the ball quick and find a way through. I’m happy with the way the guys kept going. It would have been easy for the guys to let the game wither away and finish 0-0, but the guys had so much drive to not let that happen.”
Tampa Bay dominated possession and nearly the entire match was played in the Spartans' end, but the Rowdies weren't sharp enough in front of goal to put the match out of reach until very late.
Tampa Bay's remaining preseason schedule includes matches against the Jacksonville Armada next Saturday night and then Miami FC on March 18. Both matches will be played away from home.
"It was a strange game, but I think we stayed on track for the regular season,” Campbell said. “They were very compact and solid and they protected their goalkeeper very well. I have to give a lot of credit to (UT Coach) Adrian Bush because that’s the best UT team we’ve come up against and we play them just about every year.”
The Rowdies' lineup featured just eight signed players, joined by trialists Akira Fitzgerald and Kyle Porter, plus training player Zack Hamm. Fitzgerald played the full 90 minutes and kept a clean sheet.
Tampa Bay made seven substitutions in the second half, breaking up the flow of the game, but remaining persistent enough to steal a late winner.
Rowdies: Martin Paterson - 88th minute (assisted by Alex Morrell)
Rowdies XI (4-2-3-1): GK Akira Fitzgerald*; D Kyle Porter* (Darnell King 67'), Tamika Mkandawire, Damion Lowe (Neill Collins 46'), Zac Portillos; M Keith Savage (Michael Nanchoff 64'), Justin Chavez (Martin Vingaard 83'); M Alex Morrell, Joe Cole (Deshorn Brown^ 77'), Zack Hamm^ (Darwin Jones 46'); F Georgi Hristov (Martin Paterson* 46')
*trialist ^training player